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GP Week : Issue 37
>>WRCINSIGHT Lightening Loeb! IRELAND opened the championship in a wonderfully and quite typically Irish fashion – with water lying everywhere! There were already concerns over the date on which the event was to be held and tyre suppliers Pirelli were required to prepare a tyre which would be suitable should the precipitation turn to snow. Then the extraordinary happened … teams found that the special Pirelli snow tyres were better to use on the puddle-strewn country roads than regular racing tyres. The climax of the rally was a most exciting televised round-the-town stage in Donegal Town, but there really was nothing other drivers could do to beat Sebastien Loeb who, even when the conditions eased on the final day, still continued to use his snow tyres. Ford’s hopes were dashed when the early rally leader Jari Matti Latvala went off the road. Good for one, bad forthe other: Ford lost the title in Wales last year, top left, while Sebastien Loeb wrapped it up for Citroen, above. During the off-season, both Subaru, above left, and Suzuki, below, pulled the pin on WRC involvement. ROUND 2 was Rally Norway, held in the snows that epitomise the joy of winter rallying. The main focus of attention was on the Solberg brothers. Henning was once again in the orange Focus but it was touch-and-go whether Petter would take part. In the end he had the chance to drive an eight-year old Citroen Xsara World Rally Car, still fitted with an active transmission system – banned from newer rally cars. It was a big rush to prepare the team, but everything came good when his black and silver car made fastest time on the opening stage, a superspecial in Oslo. Dominating the event was too much to expect but he finished sixth, despite various problems including a sticking throttle. It was a super effort considering the age of his car. While Loeb went on to win once again, the event was also noted for Skoda’s new Fabia S2000 PCWRC category win on the first appearance of this type in world championship rallying, finishing ahead of the orthodox Group N cars. 39 Round 1 – Ireland Round 2 – Norway